By BRIAN LESTER
Dylan Kaufman has been one of the most consistent scorers for the University of Findlay men’s basketball team over the last few weeks.
In his last five games, the sophomore guard is averaging 18.4 points per game, highlighting that run with a pair of 20-point efforts, including a career-high 29-point performance in a 114-82 win over Notre Dame College last month.
Interestingly enough, it’s not so much what Kaufman has done from a shooting standpoint that has improved his scoring ability as it is what he has done on the other end of the floor.
“As much as it doesn’t sound like it, it’s defense that has made a difference for me,” Kaufman said. “I’ve been able to get some steals that have led to easy layups, and that has helped my 3-point shot. When you get the easy shots to fall, the 3-pointers start going in. Everything is feeling good.”
Kaufman is second on the team in scoring at 14 ppg and leads the team in steals with 18. He is also second on the team in rebounding, averaging 4.1 rebounds per game.
Experience, not surprisingly, has made a huge difference for the former Berlin Hiland High School star.
“It’s a lot easier this year because I’m used to everything,” Kaufman said. “I feel more comfortable playing and that helps me shoot with a lot more ease.”
It is interesting that Kaufman brings up his play on defense, though, as a key to success because defense is what the Oilers have emphasized this week as they prepare for today’s 8 p.m. Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference battle with Saginaw Valley State at Croy Gymnasium.
The Oilers (7-3, 3-3 GLIAC), who fell out of the NCAA Division II national poll this week, are looking to end a two-game losing streak that was the result of failing to step up on defense in crunch time.
UF led Ferris State and Grand Valley State on the road in the last five minutes last week before coming up short. The Oilers lost 85-81 to FSU and 81-76 to GVSU.
“We have to put a 40-minute game together. That is really what it comes down to,” UF head coach Charlie Ernst said. “We’ve addressed defense more than offense this week. I’m disappointed with our defensive performance, not so much over the course of the entire game, but when it has counted the most. I like to think we have made some improvements in that area over the last three days.”
SVSU comes to town having lost its last three games, including a gut-wrenching loss on Saturday when it fell 67-65 to Walsh on a last-second tip-in.
The Cardinals (5-5, 1-5) have put a lot of emphasis on defense as well, allowing 67.2 points per outing. The Oilers are allowing 73.8 ppg.
“They are one of the top defensive teams in the conference,” Ernst said. “I’m impressed with how hard they play and how well they defend. It will be a challenge.”
Ernst said his Oilers, the favorite to win the GLIAC South Division, can’t be fooled by the record the Cardinals have heading into this game.
“Don’t let their record deceive you,” Ernst said. “They might be young, but they play extremely hard and they are well-coached, and for those reasons, they have put themselves in a position to win almost every game they have played this year.”
Sophomore guard Damon Bozeman leads the Cardinals, averaging 15.8 ppg. He has drilled 27 treys and averages 5.8 rebounds per game.
Freshman forward C.J. Turnage is clicking for 15.7 points per outing while freshman guard Garrett Hall is pouring in 11.8 ppg. He has knocked down 23 3-pointers.
Freshman forward Wade Gelhaus (8.7 ppg, 4.4 rebounds per game) has also played well for a Cardinals team that averages 75.2 points per outing and is shooting 49.7 percent from the field.
UF is averaging 89 points per outing and shooting 49.1 percent from the field. Greg Kahlig leads the Oilers in scoring at 21.4 ppg.
It would be easy for a team coming off two close losses to hang its collective head, but the Oilers have no intentions of doing it as they look to nail down a win that will keep them in the hunt for a conference title.
“It is frustrating because we led both games (last week), but we have learned from the losses,” Kaufman said. “We know we need to get better on defense and we’ve worked on the little things to improve on defense.”
The good news for the Oilers is they will play at home twice this week, finishing out the week with a game against rival Wayne State on Saturday.
“We still have 16 conference games left and we are right in the thick of things in the conference,” Ernst said. “We have several home games coming up, starting (Thursday), and we need to take advantage of them.”
UF women look to rebound
The UF women’s basketball team will be looking to end a four-game conference losing streak when it takes on SVSU at 6 p.m. today at Croy Gymnasium.
The Oilers (5-5, 2-4 GLIAC) have lost three consecutive games overall and are playing at home for the first time since Dec. 14.
The Cardinals (6-3, 4-2) are coming off an 80-64 win over Walsh where Kayla Womack dropped in a career-high 29 points. Womack is second for SVSU in scoring as she averages 14.7 points per outing. She is grabbing 4.6 rebounds per game as well.
Kristen Greene leads the Cardinals in scoring at 17.6 ppg. She has knocked down 21 3-pointers and is pulling down 5.7 rebounds per outing.
UF, which lost 77-68 to GVSU on Saturday, is led by former Riverdale standout Lacey Kessler, who is averaging 12.1 ppg. The junior forward has tied or led the team in scoring six times this season and is shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Sophomore Margaret Wuebker is second on the team in scoring at 11.0 ppg. She is shooting 50.6 percent from the field.
The Oilers are averaging 72.2 ppg and allowing 69. SVSU is averaging 78.4 ppg and is giving up 66.7 points per outing.
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